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Dallas--The American Gem Trade Association has made a few revisions to its Code of Ethics and Fair Business Practices document that are designed mostly to emphasize the importance of transparent supply chains in the colored gemstone world.

AGTA CEO Doug Hucker told National Jeweler that while not many changes were made, the revisions to the new copy emphasize that members are not only giving correct information but also doing everything they can assure the stones have been sourced in legitimate fashion and to comply with U.S. and international laws.

In recent years, there’s been an increased focus on the supply chain in the jewelry industry--where materials are being produced, how they’re being produced, and if they are coming to market in a legitimate and transparent method, Hucker said. 

Efforts include the Responsible Jewellery Council and the plans that are underway for the industry’s first summit dedicated entirely to responsible sourcing, which is slated to take place in New York next year. 

There is also, of course, the Kimberley Process, which was created to stem the flow of “conflict” diamonds into the trade.

But unlike diamonds, which are a much more centralized marketing business and can lend themselves well to a monitoring program like the Kimberley Process, the colored gemstone market is very diverse and scattered across the world. So rather than an international agreement on trading between countries and corporations, the industry instead has governments around the world enforcing laws for the import and export of goods.

For this reason, the AGTA wanted to revise its code of ethics to remind members that they need to take steps to ensure the gemstones they are purchasing are not tainted in any way and to stress the fact that it’s the members’ responsibilities to behave according to federal guidelines, as well as the guidelines of the international countries in which they are doing business.

Additionally, Hucker said, they want to ensure members are doing everything they can to prevent any type of environmental degradation.

The AGTA clarified and magnified the responsibility of the members that are doing business in an international arena “to apply the same business ethics and professionalism everywhere that they do business,” Hucker said.

He added, “We amplified that part of it to say that we are part of a global community, and we have a global responsibility that extends beyond our borders to make sure that we’re following the laws and making every attempt we can to make sure that there’s no evidence of any problems associated with the gemstones.”

The code also addresses fair trade. 

Since the jewelry industry doesn’t have well-defined protocols for exactly what fair trade is, the AGTA requires in its new code that gemstone merchants who want to present their materials as “fair trade” clearly define what protocols they are following to be able to say they are such, Hucker said.

Additionally, because it is such a comprehensive guide that is more than 30 years old, Hucker noted that there also was a need to go through and update it from a legal language standpoint for clear, precise vocabulary. 

Since its inception in 1981, the Code of Ethics has governed the way that AGTA recommends its members do business, ranging from responsibilities as a seller of gemstones to disclose information appropriately about the gemstone, financial considerations, how to do appropriate professional business transactions, and more.

It includes recommendations for retailers, dealers, designers, and appraisers, and has to be signed annually by all members. The newest edition can be found online at AGTA.org.





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